Right now, the biggest trend in tooling systems is automation.
“A few years ago, I anticipated a labour shortage coming,” said Lisa Goulet, President of Aiguisatek. “So, we started to make our whole process technological six or seven years ago.”
Aiguisatek offers the most complete solution for the maintenance of cutting tools in the industry. Their philosophy is to provide customers with services that ensure optimal tool quality, profitability, reliability, and durability – essential for any manufacturer. They consistently seek solutions that suit their client requirements and are committed to providing customized and valuable service in the sharpening and equipment fields. Part of that means having high-tech, reliable machinery in their own shop to provide the best service. This means automation.
People are always worried about jobs disappearing due to automation, but it seems more like automation is filling roles that are difficult to hire for. It also improves productivity, consistency and creates other jobs that are more appealing to job seekers.
While Goulet foresaw the labour shortage coming, there’s no way she could have predicted the pandemic. At the height of COVID restrictions, Aiguisatek suffered a 30% loss. Not all their manufacturing customers were considered essential, and therefore not all of their customers were operational. Their losses likely would have been more if they didn’t have automated solutions.
“Since our staff had to stay home, we took on the challenge of keeping production low with two people, which we nonetheless succeeded in thanks to automated production with Vollmer grinding technology,” said Goulet.
The Vollmer CHD 270 grinding machine with its ND 250 loader allowed for unmanned manufacturing and machining of carbide circular saw blades around the clock. The loading carriages of the ND 250 robotic system can accommodate up to 450 saw blades with a maximum load of 1.5 tons. And soon, they’ll have another machine that can run 24/7 as they’re investing in a new PDC machine.
It only makes sense that if the millwork industry is progressing towards automation, companies like Aiguisatek that count woodworkers as their clients should do the same.
“We’re looking to automate everything we can in the future,” said Goulet. “It brings the performance of tooling up. We want to optimize tools for our customers.”
Optimization is essential, and it’s also the biggest challenge. When I asked if people knew what they were doing wrong, the answer was a resounding ‘no.’ Jonathan Riberdy, Vice-President, was full of stories of companies making costly mistakes.
“I was doing a site visit for a counter manufacturer, and I was walking along the production line. I was just listening to a sawblade, and I knew something was wrong,” said Riberdy. “So, I asked him if he had read all the information about the blade because what he had on there – it wasn’t even cutting.”
The customer was hesitant because the recommended blade was 40% more expensive than his current model. He didn’t realize that increased costs on the invoice would save them tons more in production costs. When you consider what it costs in lost production time, repairs, and manpower, it adds up quickly.
“We did the math and changing the blades on that machine saved them about $15000 per year, per blade,” explained Riberdy. “And that machine alone had four blades.”
He likened a mistake like that to putting cheap tires on a sports car. Investing in higher-quality blades for cutting systems can make all the difference. Almost all the routers and saw blades Aiguisatek sells are Canadian-made. It’s always been that way since Goulet’s father started the company 35 years ago.
“You can’t always see the value on your invoice, but when you see the results, there’s no doubt,” said Riberdy. “It’s not just about the blade; it’s about the technical expertise and the solutions we provide.”